Landscape with Human Figure

Landscape with Human Figure

by Rafael Campo, Campo, Rafael Campo
     
 

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In Landscape with Human Figure, his fourth and most compelling collection of poetry, Rafael Campo confirms his status as one of America's most important poets. Like his predecessor William Carlos Williams, who was also a physician, Campo plumbs the depths of our capacity for empathy. Campo writes stunning, candid poems from outside the academy, poems thatSee more details below

Overview

In Landscape with Human Figure, his fourth and most compelling collection of poetry, Rafael Campo confirms his status as one of America's most important poets. Like his predecessor William Carlos Williams, who was also a physician, Campo plumbs the depths of our capacity for empathy. Campo writes stunning, candid poems from outside the academy, poems that arise with equal beauty from a bleak Boston Tenement or a moonlist Spanish plaza, poems that remain unafraid to explore and celebrate his identity as a doctor and Cuban American gay man. Yet no matter what their unexpected and inspired sources, Campo's poems insistently remind us of the necessity of poetry in our increasingly fractured society; his writing brings us together—just as did the incantations of humankind's earliest healers—into the warm circle of community and connectedness. In this heart-wrenching, haunting, and ultimately humane work, Rafael Campo has painted as if in blood and breath a gorgeously complex world, in which every one of us can be found.

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Editorial Reviews

Wendy Shapiro
"[A] powerful collection.
Windy City Times
Richard Labonte
Rafael Campo blends several selves into his persona as a poet-Cuban-American, openly gay man, physician, AIDS healer, teacher. Each facet of his life is brilliantly yet formally depicted in his fourth collection, Landscape with Human Figure.....Each rereading will yield new wisdom, heart, and insight-great poems, really, reveal their truths with inspired reluctance. Campo is among his generation's best poets.
Front Page
Chelsey Johnson
A] pleasant and accessible fourth collection of poetry . . . . [T]he gentle, regular rhythms of [Campo's] poems give them a sense of quiet control. . . . Contemplative, hopeful, and heartfelt.
Out
Ray Olson
"[Campo] writes candidly and with pictorial clarity and color about love won, matured, alienated, and lost; powerfully about the burden of dark skin in a white society, especially in the sonnet sequence 'Afraid of the Dark;' and with satiric bite and rueful sympathy about his people and motherland in 'Cuban Canticle in Five Parts.' The physician can heal his readers as well as himself.
Booklist
Rachel J. DeWoskin
Campo confirms his celebrated ability to move from formal verses to far-reaching reflections on alienation and the manifestation of internal energies on external surfaces. With emotion and a technical prowess surgical in its delicacy, the book exposes our raw selves and our travels between beauty and terror.
Boston Magazine
Publishers Weekly
Campo writes restless, worldly narrative poems, often rhyming, that take-and unapologetically engage-the world as it presents itself.....[H]is insouciant, call-them-as-I-seem-them descriptions are luminous, addressing the ravages of AIDS, particularly, with care and respect.
Philip Huang
Landscape with Human Figure by Rafael Campo is about not having the luxury to look away. An AIDS physician, Campo boldly defies the myth of the kind and courageous care giver. This is not stylish cynicism but a brave admission of his own limitations. He is made speechless by a dying man's gentle reproach: 'You can't know how I feel." Just as often, Campo peers curiously into the dreamlife of his patients.
POZ
Library Journal
A Cuban American gay man in 'unending exile' (he practices medicine in Boston), Campo writes compelling poems about patients in the ER, probing relationships between doctor and patient, between a patient's case 'history' and the cultural mainstream, between an immigrant family and aspirations to study medicine, between sexuality and the restraint of lovers. Not unlike Chekhov, another physician-author, the steady-eyed Campo comes to terms with the darkest of human problems ('the muffled screams/ along a hallway to the absolute') by fusing empathy and clinical accuracy. Strengthened by his hands-on knowledge of healing and suffering and kept gentle by bearing his burdens with grace, Campo asserts that, despite 'the harrowed world . . . we are together, we are here to stay.
From the Publisher

Landscape with Human Figure is a striking achievement. I am moved, as his readers are sure to be, by Campo’s wisdom, maturity, depth, heart, and range of experience.”—Grace Schulman

“Rafael Campo is an accomplished formalist. I hugely enjoy watching him skitter from sestina to pantoum, sonnet to rhymed couplets, to say nothing of his own nonce forms devised as the situation suggests.”—Maxine Kumin

Eric McHenry

Landscape with Human Figure bespeaks compassion, dedication, and the sort of intellectual curiosity you’d expect from an M.D. with a creative writing degree.”
Gregg Shapiro

“[A] powerful collection. . . .”
Kevin Riordan

“[A]mbitious, elegant poems. . . . [I]n Landscape with Human Figure, Campo’s clear gaze, generous heart and great skill combine to create a resonant and often romantic collection of poems, one that locates and celebrates all our shared ‘outsider’ hearts.”
Rachel DeWoskin

“Campo confirms his celebrated ability to move from formal verses to far-reaching reflections on alienation and the manifestation of internal energies on external surfaces. With emotion and a technical prowess surgical in its delicacy, the book exposes our raw selves and our travels between beauty and terror.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822328759
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
01/28/2002
Pages:
104
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Rafael Campo teaches and practices general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship and a Pushcart Prize. His debut collection of poetry, The Other Man Was Me, won the 1993 National Poetry Series award. His second collection, What the Body Told, won a Lambda Literary Award; his third, Diva, was a finalist in 2000 for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Paterson Poetry Prize (both titles also available from Duke University Press). His work has been published in DoubleTake, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The New Republic, The New York Times Magazine, Out, The Progressive, Salon, Slate, and The Washington Post Book World. He is also the author of a collection of essays now available in paperback under the title The Desire to Heal. He lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


On New Year's Day


If hopefulness resides in what we can resolve to change, then let us give up sweets, nail-biting, cigarettes, the habits of our weak humanity—we can succeed

if only we try hard enough, resist potato chips and shed ten pounds, return whatever book we have that's overdue, forgive inequities and do what's just—

because today is anything, it is our natural color, it is when we begin to save, it is the better spouse we'll be, it is beginning to be free.


Nightfall in Asturias


Like eyebrows raised with weary resignation, the arches of the Roman bridges here bear witness to the endless passage not of pilgrims now, but tourists. Equal in the terrible iniquities of sin if not in abnegation of the self, we photograph the Lord's profane creation: the darkly ugly family of boar that wallows on the river's edge, a plot plowed neatly into rows of rocky earth

that clings against a mountain's flank, a bus with "Bimbo" blazoned on its side (a brand of cake in Spain that makes some giggle—men, of course, who are Americans like us). The curving roads we travel parallel the northern route the faithful took to find the shrine where James the Greater's lost remains were finally discovered, centuries ago. The sun sets slow as a saint bleeds, eternal reds; fake Rolexes for sale,

spread out like treasures froma foreign land, attract a couple to a gypsy's table. I watch you as you puzzle over maps, perplexed myself by what, if anything, it is that joins us. Not the sin, because we're all guilty of the abominable; not lack of fear, because I know the loss of you would be much more than I could stand. I grasp it when the gypsies start to sing of night as sanctuary, love as hope.


Quatrains for a Shrinking World


    I. El Oriental de Cuba, "La Esquina del Sabor"

Victorians surrounding it, the place is just a storefront restaurant that seats about a dozen people; strange, to taste roast pork that's drenched in mojo, yuca frites,

and milkshakes of mamey this far up North. Outside, if they were still alive, I might expect my grandparents to pass, the force of their unending exile not quite

enough to stop them—only slow them down. Abuela, stooped by bags of groceries, her makeup's compensation overdone; and Granpa, brittle as his misery,

his guayabera barely filled by bones. I wonder whether she'd prepare congrí for him, upon their safe arrival home. If only they could get there, finally.


    II. Writer in Exile

I've wished that I were born a Soviet, so that my presence in America would cause as greatly dignified regret as leads to literary coup d'états—

but I am merely Cuban, dark and small as any from a hundred nations which exist for others' domination. All I say is colonized, if not by rich

"protectors" then by communists who redden on Varadero Beach; my poetry, if plagued by form, otherwise does not threaten (conveniently) the New-World-Orderly

procession of the vanquished. Hear my voice, my queerly Spanish intonation, hear the perfect sound of banishment. Rejoice! I'm nothing yet, although tomorrow's near.


    III. Take-Out Night with Friends:

    A Meditation on "Multiculturalism"

Half French-Canadian, half African-American, my friend is marrying an Irish-Chinese man; the Indian and German-Scottish couple always bring

their daughter to our get-togethers, where my partner and I host, conventional first-time homeowners—gay, or even queer (and yes, Latino too), we seem of all

our group the most bourgeois. We gaze at her, the tiny, lovely Nina Clair, her skin a color neither cinnamon nor pure white ivory, but somewhere in between;

she smiles at her "uncles," six months old still young enough to trust, to love without "diversity." Perhaps she sees the world in us. Or else, she's slowly learning doubt.


    IV. The Modern Cartographer's Lament

My globe confuses me with distances. An island only ninety, miles lee fades infinitely far, while Budapest (at least the part that's Little Hungary)

thrives only blocks from where I shop street stands. If only hatred didn't travel just as paradoxically: the African-American whose tortured death defaced

the Texas hills, the NATO bombs unloosed upon the Balkans. Here, right here, I see each horror, all as near as neighborhood- as if these continents were joined, these seas

unfilled by tears none ever had to cry. I plot out borders nature never made, the shapes of nations random to my eye whose peoples wander, equal in their need.


Excerpted from LANDSCAPE WITH HUMAN FIGURE by Rafael Campo. Copyright © 2002 by Rafael Campo. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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